Jim Wallis and the evangelical left group Sojourners have started a “What Would Jesus Cut” Campaign. Wallis complaining about the proposed budget cuts that Republicans planned to make wrote at HuffPo:
It used to be very popular for Christians to ask, "What Would Jesus Do?" They even wore bracelets with the initials "WWJD." The bracelets acted as reminders that as Christians, our actions should always reflect the values and example we see in the life of Jesus. Already, in a first wave of response to the proposed cuts, thousands of Christians told their members of Congress that they need to ask themselves, "What Would Jesus Cut?" They believe, and so do I, that the moral test of any society is how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. And that is exactly what the Bible says, over and over again.
I believe that vaccines that save children’s lives; bed nets that protect them from malaria; and food that keeps their families from starving are more important to Jesus than tax cuts for the rich; bigger subsidies for corporations; and more weapons in a world already filled with conflict. I also believe that tested and effective domestic programs that clearly help to lift people out of poverty are more reflective of the compassion of Christ than tax and spending policies that make the super-rich even richer. And I don’t believe, as the Republicans keep saying, that the best way to help everybody is to keep helping the super-rich. That’s not smart economics and, as we say in the evangelical community, it’s not biblical. So many of us in the faith community are ready to make a moral argument against the proposed budget cuts to our members of Congress, especially to those who claim to be people of faith.
Wallis often wrongly applies Old Testament and New Testament passages to the State when God has been speaking to individuals. Hunter Baker gave an excellent response that reflects my own thinking so I want to share some excerpts here.
Applying the Bible to economic policy shouldn’t be made to sound like it is a black and white proposition and that there is one Christian position. Hunter wrote:
Jim Wallis and a number of other Christians involved in politics are trying to gain attention for the question, “What would Jesus cut?” The answer to this question is supposed to be as obvious as it is in other moral contexts. For example, would Jesus lie about the useful life of a refrigerator he was selling for Best Buy? No way. Would he bully a kid into giving away his lunch money? Not a chance. Would you find him taking in the show at a strip club on interstate 40 in Arkansas? Unlikely to the extreme.
Would he agree to a 2% cut in the marginal tax rate for income made above $250,000? Would he EVER accept a cut in welfare spending? Those take a little more thought.
Wallis seems to overlook that the Biblical role of civil government is defense and punishing wrongdoing (Romans 13:1-4). Hunter also points out:
…he (Wallis) complains that some Republicans want to cut domestic spending and international aid, while they support an increase in military spending. The implication is that this is obviously a sub-Christian position. But is it? Probably the most essential purpose of government is to protect the life and freedom of citizens. The government achieves this goal through military means. Unless one takes the position that Christianity implies corporate pacificism, then it is unclear the Republicans have blundered according to Christian ethics.
Wallis claims that by cutting defense we’ll be able to balance the budget, but that simply is not true. There have already been cuts made to defense spending, but the chart below demonstrates an increase in entitlement spending:
Regarding taxes, Hunter responds…
Wallis complains bitterly that tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans add billions to the deficit. He is referring to the extension of George W. Bush’s cuts in the marginal tax rates that existed under Bill Clinton. The first question I have is how does Jim Wallis know that the level of taxation was just to begin with? And why take Bill Clinton’s tax levels as the Platonic form of taxation? Maybe they were too high or too low. The highest marginal tax rates have fluctuated drastically in the United States during the last century. John F. Kennedy made a big cut, with impressive economic effects, as did Ronald Reagan. Is Wallis sure that by cutting taxes those men robbed the poor and gave to the rich? Maybe a lot of poor people got jobs because of them. And we aren’t even getting into the question of whether rich people actually have an enhanced duty to pay taxes. If there is a community need, is it righteous to grab a rich person and employ the power of legal coercion to extract the needed funds?
We already have a progressive tax rate, so apparently in Wallis’ view it needs to be more progressive. I’m concerned by the redistributionist desires of the left as some believe that the wealthy’s money is a national resource and it belongs to the people. That’s state sanctioned theft.
I do have an answer to the question, “What would Jesus cut?” that I would hope Jim Wallis and I could agree on… how about Planned Parenthood funding? Perhaps George Soros’ funding of Jim Wallis and Sojourners prevents him finding agreement with me here as well.